Is Freedom of Speech Encouraged on American Campuses?
Panel 3 Q&A
April 10, 2015
Moderator Helena Cobban: We have time for maybe one question given to each of the panelists. So Dima, if you could choose your question first and answer succinctly and strongly, but mainly shortly, because the next thing is lunch.
Dima Khalidi: The question is, "The only way to win the battle for control over the Palestinian-Israeli narrative on campus is to win over the moderates who are on the fence. How can SJP groups operate effectively and present their message without being labeled as extremists?"
I don’t think I need to speak for the students. Our role at Palestine Legal is not to tell them what to say. Do they seem extremist to you? I don’t think so. This is part of the problem, that students should be able to get their message across and they’re doing it effectively, and that’s the problem. That Israel advocacy groups are seeing that they’re doing it effectively, and that’s where the repression comes in. I think they are getting moderates, so to speak, off the fence. And that’s why we’re seeing all of this suppression. That would be my answer to that question and I think they speak very well for themselves.
Helena Cobban: Thanks. Amani, which question are you choosing?
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: This question comes from a student leader in SJP in New York City. It says, "What’s your advice for those of us who are constantly getting ostracized and repressed for being active in the Palestinian Liberation Movement, especially being in a city like New York that has a large demographic of pro-Israelis and Zionists?"
From experience, my biggest piece of advice is to remain consistent and never get disheartened, because there is a reason why it is so stressful being in our position and why we’re facing such strong adversaries. It’s because what we’re saying is threatening. That’s literally all we have. All we have on our side are the facts and the truth. We can go up against rhetoric, against talking points all day every day, but the truth is always going to prevail, and that is terrifying for the status quo. So just remain consistent and never lose hope.
Ahmad Saadaldin: This question says, "Why doesn’t SJP work on all campuses to educate student leaders so they don’t have to attend all-expense-paid trips to Washington, DC and attend the AIPAC conference?"
I think that’s something that people are trying to do. To have an SJP at a university, you need people that want to start an SJP, and it’s growing. Eventually it will get there, but I think we’re well behind AIPAC and these other organizations. They have a lot of money and they have been doing this for years. I think we’re making a lot of progress, but we need support from people like you. Thank you very much.
Helena Cobban: I know that Dima, Amani and Ahmad will be around for you to ask questions, talk with them some more. Again, just one quick plug for Nora Barrows-Friedman’s book about the SJP movement, are you in it, Ahmad? You can learn a lot more about the SJP movement from these wonderful people and more about Palestine Legal. If you just think how much money goes into the discourse suppression organizations that Dima mentioned a little bit, all the panelists mentioned a little bit. Palestine Legal has three attorneys and one administrative person. It’s amazing what the needs are. You can get more information about Palestine Legal outside. You can talk to Dima, obviously.
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